I buzzed by Borders tonight to pick up Emma Holly's newest release, Kissing Midnight and see what else was hitting the shelves for June. I don't buy many Baen hardcovers as a general rule (they've fallen apart on me too many times) but I spotted a copy of Longeye, the sequel to Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Duainfey, which I had already bought as a gift for a friend, and picked that up to add to the gift. I knew going in that I had to wait until the 30th for Darkness Calls, the sequel to Marjorie M. Liu's The Iron Hunt, but that I have on preorder. From there it was just casual browsing.
I caught a glimpse of a zombie version of a classic literary novel, spun around and walked the other way. I've heard a lot about it, but the cover art is beyond repulsive, and the shock value or whatever didn't work on me. I ended up in the lit/mainstream aisle, and spotted a popular author's new title, which had an autographed sticker on the cover and a nice bookmark sticking out of it. Since I don't often have the chance to get signed copies of anything, I grabbed two copies (one for me and one for LB&LI) and headed for the register. Only when I got home did I discover that the books weren't actually signed, but had a signed bookplate glued to the inside cover.
This bothered me, as I don't care for signed bookplates. I made up a batch once for an indy bookseller who requested them, but that left me feeling like I'd cheated, and I never did them again. I don't know why I don't like them, either. They're certainly a practical alternative to doing the real thing. Authors, especially popular ones, can't be expected to hold signings all over the country. Most can't travel overseas to sign books for non-U.S. readers.
To me a signed book, even if it's flat-signed, has some value, not just as a collectible but as a memento. If you attend signings, you get to meet the author in person, and that's usually an event a reader likes to remember. Even if the author is like me and doesn't do signings but instead mails out signed books, there's still a degree of personal connection there. The author held the book to sign it before sending it off.
The bookplate is signed, too, but that happened when it was probably in a stack of blanks that the author signed, one right after another, then mailed off to a bookstore where one of the staff glued it to the inside of the new stock. It just doesn't seem as personal to me.
Maybe I'm being too picky, though. What do you guys think? Are bookplates okay with you, or do you prefer to have the author sign the book itself?